Track test: Lamborghini Huracan STO prototype

Tyler Heatley

18 Nov 2020

Meet the Lamborghini Huracan STO, a 631bhp supercar flagship powered by a naturally aspirated V10 engine. Heavily inspired by the Troffeo GT3 racing car, we were amongst the first to test the STO.

Us car enthusiasts are something of an endangered species these days. One by one our four-wheeled heroes are assassinated by new rules and regulations. While the days of pure combustion might be numbered, every once in a while there is a car that reminds us that we don’t have to go quietly into the night. Cars like the Lamborghini Huracan STO.

Designed to be the ultimate elixir of track weaponry and road legality, this Super Trofeo Omoligato serves as the most potent member of the Huracan family. Lamborghini wanted to create something that emulated and celebrated its successful GT3 racer, but in a package that aims to be exploitable by those lacking a race licence. I’ve got the keys to a prototype Huracan STO to find out if Lambo’s baby bull has the horns to back-up its claim to motorsport fame.

One glance at the STO and the similarities between the racer and it are immediately apparent. The aggressive but functional design starts with a jutting front splitter and a central intake for the nose-mounted radiator. Air is expelled through large nostrils cut into the bonnet, directed in such a way not to disturb that prominent roof scoop. Louvred arches, intricate intakes, and carefully choreographed channels and ducts forces the air to dance around this Huracan. A substantial diffuser and artillery- inspired exhaust exits sit below a three-way adjustable rear wing so large that it puts some light aircraft to shame.

Its striking silhouette might look like something from the movie Tron, but this indulgent design justifies its form with function. That carbon spine boosts stability, its magnesium wheels reduce unsprung mass and the whole aero package generates over 400kg of downforce at 124mph in prototype posture.

Being a prototype, our test car’s interior wasn’t representative of the finished article. However, we did get to sample the STO’s lightweight sports seats that place you 15mm lower in the chassis. Being plugged into the core of the car and braced by a four-point race harness served as the precursor to entering the fabled Nardo test track.

Flip open the fighter jet-styled casing to reveal the engine start button. One prod detonates the first droplets of high-octane fuel via a naturally aspirated V10 engine - a rarity in today’s world. The supercar clears its throat with a shriek of revs before settling at a deep idle. Even stationary you can feel this machine has a pulse, a distilled aggression that is bubbling beneath the surface.

There are three selectable drive modes; STO, Trofeo and Pioggia. STO is a one-stop-shop for on-road performance, Pioggia is a specific wet weather setting, but I’m here to test the most capable Troffeo track mode. In this setting the Lamborghini is at its most alert, with throttle and gearbox response set to maximum attack. The suspension is also at its most resilient to roll in a bid to provide a stable platform when exploiting all ten cylinders.

Transitioning from creeping out of the pit lane to opening the throttle leaves no doubt that Lamborghini still knows how to put on a show. Its 631bhp and 565Nm of torque is channeled through its rear wheels, sucking all organic matter in the cockpit into those bolstered seats. That signature banshee howl of a V10 narrated rapid progress towards the first corner, each snatch of the transmission paddle at high revs unlocking the next chorus.

An excessively fast left-handed corner revealed just how stable the STO is at speed. While the steering could do with a touch more weight, its precise nature and rapid response delivered a confident change of direction.

Being rear-wheel drive, and easily possessing enough torque to overwhelm its bespoke Bridgestone rubber, means that there’s some sideways fun to be had for the bold. The traction control system gives you enough slack to get the car moving, but will subtly rein you in should things start to get out of shape. The transition into a slide is beautifully predictable thanks to the chassis communication, and easily controlled with precise throttle inputs combined with well-judged steering. The car still demands respect, but it is forgiving enough should you decide to take a few oversteer-fueled liberties.

Driving the STO in a more focused manner is thrilling. Push hard on the brake peddle to receive the full potential of those carbon-carbon stoppers, an asset that really gives you the confidence to leave breaking until the last moment. The braking system is actually 60% more resilient than those found on the already impressive Performante. However, the pedal itself could do with some added resistance to make inputs more precise in this prototype. A nice touch is the ability to monitor brake temperatures via the car’s infotainment system, a feature that informs you if things are getting too hot, or if you’re not trying hard enough.

Commanding its seven-speed automatic transmission rapidly down the gears, with gunfire crackles from the exhaust, brings the drama. The combination of this supercar’s short wheelbase, bespoke Bridgestone tyres and rear-wheel steering gives it the agility of a cheetah. As the weight shifts around the mid-engine car, you can really use the inertia to rotate it. Rapid changes of direction with masterful body control gives the driver the freedom to pick-off apexes at will. Hard acceleration out of corners needs to be tempered, but the feedback from the chassis allows you to gauge exactly what you can get away with.

How fast is the STO? Well, if you want to compare it with the highly capable Performante, it is nearly three seconds a lap faster around Daytona International Speedway. Why use that track for a comparison? Because it’s also where the GT3 car races, a machine that is less than two seconds faster than the STO. Not only does this highlight the new supercar’s pedigree, but also how capable it must be to be breathing down the neck of a purpose-built racing car.

The thing that is most striking about the STO from behind the wheels isn’t its sheer performance, but how accessible it is. Lamborghini is very proud of its Trofeo ‘gentleman racer’ variant being both capable and approachable for all skill levels – in many respects this new supercar is the same. Don’t get me wrong, it still requires a healthy dose of respect, but it doesn’t feel as hard-edged or intimidating as some other ‘race inspired’ rivals – not necessarily a bad thing.

This prototype drive is just an amuse-bouche for when the STO hits the road in its totally finished guise. Considering how impressive the package is at this point in time, and the fact that engineers still have a few months of tinkering ahead, the STO should be quite the crowning glory to the Huracan range.

To lovers of internal combustion, piston-powered symphonies and design capable of reigniting your inner six year-old, today Lamborghini has delivered a gift. In a world that is becoming evermore indifferent about the automobile, here is a true bastion, a gloriously naturally aspirated symbol of rebellion.

Tyler Heatley

18 Nov 2020

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